Council publications clause 'unnecessary' says peer


A former chairman of the Local Government Association has said that the government's tighter controls on council publications is "unnecessary" as "there are very few councils breaking the existing recommendations".

She called for an independent review investigating the impact of council free-sheets on regional and local newspapers, during the second reading of the Local Audit and Accountability Bill on 22 May 2013.

The bill gives the government powers to intervene when it does not think a council is complying with the code of practice on local authority publicity. The measure is designed to protect local newspapers from unfair competition by council free-sheets.

However Liberal Democrat Lord Shipley, vice president of the Local Government Association, disagreed with her saying he had "difficulty with local newspapers which run the risk of being seen as propaganda".

He said that while information from councils was right, he saw "a weekly newspaper as a step too far and it is likely, inevitably I think, to verge on the propagandist".

His fellow Liberal Democrat peer Lord Palmer of Childs Hill also thought the clause was unnecessary and said the government did not need to legislate against council newspapers which "contained political propaganda".

Speaking for Labour, Lord Beecham described the proposal as "objectionable" and the reality was that local media was suffering because of free newspapers, social media and a decline in advertising.

The bill shuts down the Audit Commission, replacing it with a new local audit framework. The government says this will save £1.2bn over a decade.

The bill also allows local council taxpayers to veto council tax rises caused by bodies such as waste disposal authorities.

The changes apply to England and Wales.

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